What might be worth watching this season is the growing clamor of New York fans urging Mike Piazza to make the move to first base. Piazza famously would like to break the record for home runs as a catcher, but his eroding skills behind the plate as well his age-induced fragility from playing the position seem like a ticket to a slower ascent up the overall home run charts. Piazza, even as he works out at first base in the early part of spring training, has indicated that his move to first will come on his own schedule, and that it is a reluctant move at that. Already in New York fans are talking about how this is selfish, how it is more about the individual than the team, about how Piazza may be shortsightedly hampering his own climb up the general home run charts as he attempts to climb up a positional home run chart. This all seems pretty spot-on as criticism. Piazza would serve the team best, in this poster’s opinion, by learning the position in spring training, by playing spot duty there early in the season, and moving to first on a full-time basis when he can play reasonable, if not even average, defense. By no means is Piazza an average defensive catcher at this point (though pitchers seem to like him), and an even mediocre performance at first may help the team because of a more continual presence on offense.
Now – Jeter. Many Yankees and Mets fans (as well as press members) will continue to accuse Piazza of being selfish by staying at the backstop. At this point, many have barely made a peep about one Derek Jeter’s refusal to move to third base though a clearly superior shortstop has freshly arrived in town. In this post, I don’t argue that Jeter is a poor fielder (let’s avoid that sensitive topic altogether), but merely a measurably lesser fielder at the position than one of his teammates. It seems, unless one wants to argue that Jeter would be an even worse third baseman than he is a shortstop, that there is absolutely no sensible baseball logic that would allow him to remain in the 6-spot. As a team player, a leader, a smart guy, Jeter should voluntarily make the move, and if he won’t, he ought to receive the same criticism that Piazza hears, that he’s more about himself than about the collective. One of the few columns addressing this issue of position change that openly calls for Jeter to move is here, and I think it’s worth a read.
For the most part, I am really just curious to see if a double-standard continues to play out for these two players – with Piazza it’s going to be a tough topic for both the press and fans to avoid as the Mets don’t appear to have the wins in them to mask such a controversy. With the Yankees, likely success may create a diversion from this issue; it might go away simply because fans are looking away, or at least at the standings.